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October 11, 2012

Nobel prizes and abysmal report cards: when not to listen to your child's teacher

By Carol Lloyd, Executive Editor

Has your child ever been written off by a teacher?  Mine have.  It’s one of those helpless feelings when you see your child’s wings being clipped by a few cutting words.

Gurdonreportcard copy

But those words can burn indelibly into a child’s consciousness and even curtail their horizons.

That’s why there’s something so vindicating and powerful about John Gurdon’s airing of his deplorable high school report card – from 63 years ago! This week Gurdon received the Nobel Prize in medicine for showing that DNA from frogs could be used to generate new tadpoles – a discovery that scientists now hope will lead to new treatments for currently incurable diseases like Parkinsons.


But in Gurdon’s first year of biology, at the prestigious British prep school Eton, his teacher gave him an assessment that might have made even the most self-assured students toss their dreams in the closest garbage can.  According to the report card, pursuing science would “be a complete waste of time” not only for Gurdon, but for the teacher who sought to help him. 

According to Gurdon, the report spelled the end of his pursuit of science in high school.  Later when he attended Cambridge, he began by studying classics and only later switched to zoology.  The fact that this is what the esteemed scientist chose to talk about upon receiving the Nobel prize is telling – telling us how hard these feelings die.  

Do you have a child that has set his or her sights a little lower because of a teacher’s premature judgment?  Watch this video to your child as an example of when not to listen to the teacher.  



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Time could only tell what will happen in the future to anyone. Would have thought that what the teacher said was indeed a misjudgment? If only the teacher is still alive, and could see what the student has become after and in spite of her misjudgment.

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